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Lesson # 4 - The Snowball Block

The snowball is a great learning block.  Once you have conquered the snowball, you will have mastered the technique of diagonally sewing small squares on corners.  This is a challenge.  You must draw a diagonal line perfectly straight on the small squall square from corner to corner.  After you sew on it, when you flip the square up, it MUST align perfectly with the square under it.

If the alignment is perfect, you can then trim off the square underneath (leaving 1/4 inch) to eliminate bulk in the quilt top.  There are actually two schools of thought on this.  Some people do not believe in trimming the square underneath.  They figure you will never be able to sew the small square on accurately, and you may as well leave the piece underneath so that you can use it as a guide when the small piece does not fit properly.

While this is a possibility, you will never be a good quilter if you do not learn how to cut and sew precisely.  It is better to learn at the beginning, then set yourself up for a lot of aggravation down the road.

The snowball is a great filler square.  When combined with other squares, it makes some very interesting secondary patterns.  When combined with a certain 9-patch blocks,  the gently "cut off" corners make the quilt look like it has gentle curves. It also provides a wide area for those who like to do special decorative quilting patterns. 

The Snowball is also a great pattern to use for an I Spy Quilt.  I Spy Quilts are made with novelty prints, and are very busy.  Using a little solid fabric around the edges highlights the novelty print and well as tones down the quilt.

Snowballs can be made any size.  When you are planning on putting them in a quilt, the size will depend on the other squares you will use with them.  If you are going to be using 3- patches for the rest of the blocks in you quilt, you will want to use a Snowball size that is equal to the size of the 3-patch.

Sewing Technique


  For this lesson, use a 6-inch square.  You can cut them yourself, or you can buy them on Ebay.  To find them on Ebay, type in "fabric, squares, 6".  This should bring up a large selection of fabrics to choose from.  The great thing about buying squares on Ebay is that not only do you not have to go out and purchase the fabric, but most sellers have already done a lot of the work for you- washing the fabric, ironing it, and then cutting it..

You will also need 4  2-inch squares - four for each 6-inch square. 

Draw a diagonal line on the back side of the smaller square from corner to corner.   Place the small square, right sides together, on the corner of the large square, per the picture..

Sew on the marked line.  After you have sewn your seam, you should be able to fold back the small square, and the edges should align PERFECTLY with the edges of the large square underneath.  If they do not, either your cutting is not accurate,  you did not draw your line perfectly, or you didn't place the two squares together perfectly.

Use your seam ripper, and do it again.  You have four corners to practice with on each square of fabric.  Do it until you get it right.  Don't settle for less, and don't fool yourself.  This particular technique will be used over and over, on squares and rectangles, making  blocks like the flying geese.  If you get it right now, no matter how long it takes, you will save yourself hours of aggravation in the future.

Once you have correctly sewn on your corner squares, if you wish you can trim off the underneath square, leaving a small 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Hand quilters like to do this because it makes the block easier to quilt.  If you are planning to tie the quilt, or to machine quilt it, you can leave it on. 

Press the seam allowances on all four corners toward the outside of the square.  Your block is done.

The Snowball Technique will be used later in other blocks like the Apple Challenge Block

On to Lesson #5 -
The Square in a Square

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